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50 Cards in this Set

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"No single 'must-have' toy will dominate Christmas toy sales this year (like the Cabbage Patch Doll, Elmo or Furby have in past years)."
The guerrilla war is at a high pitch and other cities have yet to be fully pacified - Sunni-dominated Mosul in the north and Ramadi to the west of Falluja among them. Let alone Baghdad.

And proper civilian rule in these places has to be established.
The insurgents are reckoned to number about 20,000 but nobody really knows. In September, an American general said there might be 40,000 of them. This is no small insurrection.
Certainly, the Americans fought cleverly in Falluja this time. Advance warnings might have let the rebel commanders escape. But they also allowed civilians to get out and this has lessened the adverse impact of the fighting.

The marines also mounted initial diversionary attacks from the south, attracting the rebel fighters there, while in fact the main assault came from the north. The fighters were in the wrong place and became trapped.
The elections, due on 27 January, are an essential element of pacification. A great deal is riding on them. But as they get closer, how much they will achieve becomes harder to discern.

They too are likely to be a milepost and not the destination. A fully constitutional government is not due to be elected until December of next year.

Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih has even said that the January vote might not go ahead if the security situation does not permit. But he is a Kurd and his caution might be born from fear that the Shias will dominate the assembly, especially if the Sunnis boycott the elections.
FACT: The new Bush Administration overtime laws are written such that many workers who currently earn overtime pay in this pay range are likely to lose it. For example:

Concurrent Duties—Under the old rule, an employee who spent a substantial amount of his or her time on nonexempt work but who also performed some exempt supervisory duties generally remained eligible for overtime pay (under old rule 541.116). Under the new rule, that person will generally be an exempt executive, and not eligible for overtime pay. (New section 541.106)
EXAMPLE—An assistant manager in fast-food, grocery or retail may spend most of his or her time performing “line” duties, like burger flipping or ringing up customers, but still be “in charge” of other workers at the same time. Under the old rule, many of these workers still received overtime pay. Under the new rule, they may very well lose their overtime pay, even if they make as little as $23,660 a year—a wage that qualifies a family for food stamps.
Salary Basis Test—The old rule required an employer to pay a worker a salary in order to deprive the worker of the right to overtime pay. The new rule (541.604) defines salary as an hourly wage, so long as the employer guarantees a minimum wage that bear a loose relationship to hourly compensation.
EXAMPLE—Registered nurses (RNs) are very likely to lose their overtime pay rights. RNs’ work satisfies the duties test for professionals, but they are paid hourly, and they don’t have much freedom to come and go. If they come in to work late, they are docked an hour’s pay, for example. They used to receive overtime pay for the many hours of overtime they are required to perform. Under the new rule, they are likely to lose that right.
There are many other examples of how workers in this salary range are likely to lose overtime pay rights. In general, the final overtime regulation will have an especially large impact on workers with minimal supervisory or “leadership” responsibilities, workers who perform minimal amounts of administrative work, workers with special skills, and certain kinds of employees in the computer field.
(AP) The Ten Commandments monument banished from Alabama's state judicial building began a national tour on the back of a flatbed truck on Saturday - starting outside the courthouse where the teaching of evolution was put on trial almost 80 years ago.

"The ACLU is still the enemy," said June Griffin of Dayton, an outspoken advocate for displays of the Ten Commandments in government buildings.

About 75 people gathered to see the 5,280-pound granite monument outside the site of the Scopes Monkey Trial - where high school teacher John Scopes was convicted in 1925 of giving lessons on evolution. Many stepped up a ladder to take photos and pose beside the marker.

Ousted Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who lost his job for defying a federal court order to remove his display from the lobby of the judicial building, approved the national tour but is not participating.

A spokeswoman for Moore said he plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the ruling that it was an unconstitutional government promotion of religion.

Jewell Sneed, 70, snapped photos of her 7-year-old great grandson, Jacob, standing beside the monument.

"I think it was awful for them to make them move it from he courthouse," Sneed said. "That is what our country is based on, is God and the Bible. Why we want to take God out I don't know. I think we are headed for big trouble when we take God out of schools and everything."

The stop at the courthouse and at Rhea County High School - where Bible classes were taught until a federal lawsuit ended them in 2002 - were the first in a tour that could crisscross the nation for up to a year.

The tour was arranged by Americans Standing for God and Country, a Texas-based veterans' group looking for congressional support to permanently display the marker at the U.S. Capitol. The group intends to take the monument to Washington on Oct. 22 for an "America For Jesus" rally.

Larry Darby, president of the Mongomery-based Atheist Law Center, Inc., was heckled by some in the crowd Saturday and loudly told, "You're not welcome here."

At one point, John Rocco, 73, of Dayton, bumped his knee into Darby's leg as they passed on the ramp steps to the display.

"That's typical Christianity," Darby shouted. "These people are the lunatic fringe."

Rocco said the knee bump was an accident.

"I'm glad I didn't carry my gun. I'd probably be in jail right now." Rocco said. "I believe in the Ten Commandments and I don't appreciate what people like him are doing to my country."

The courthouse in Dayton became a flashpoint for creationism vs. evolution in 1925, when orator and presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan and lawyer Clarence Darrow squared off during the prosecution of Scopes for teaching evolution instead of the biblical story of creation.

Moore's monument was placed in a judicial building closet for almost a year until he accepted the offer by the veterans' group to take it on the road. The group promotes itself as veterans dedicated to battling domestic enemies and protecting "Christian heritage."

"One of our domestic enemies is our failing judicial system," said Jim Cabaniss, president of the veterans' group, a division of American Veterans in Domestic Defense. "Our position is we have removed the monument from a dark room in the Alabama Supreme Court Building and exposed it to the world."

Cabaniss said the tour is not political and is not raising money for the group or Moore.

Although no speaker asked for money, pamphlets handed out at the stadium rally included an application for active membership in the veteran's group, at a cost of $120 a year or $1,000 for lifetime. A representatives of the Foundation for Moral Law, Inc., of Montgomery sold Ten Commandments pins for $5.

Cabaniss said the tour would probably go to Mississippi from Tennessee.
"I call 2004 the 'Techno Retro Year' because many old favorite toys are returning ('retro') but with new twists, and most of these twists are 'techno'," says Galloway. "For example, the 'Easy Bake' oven has been re-created as the 'Real Meal' oven. Etch a Sketch has several variants, including a Shrek Etch A Sketch and an electronic version. Not to mention all the new interactive, electronic, and high tech games and toys available this year," Galloway continues.
1. Hottest Christmas Toys 2004 #1 - Techno

Video games (and the systems to play them on) are HUGE again this year -- again. Some of the old favorite characters and game types will still be hot, but there are new electronic entertainment systems and interactive TV games that will be equally popular.

From snowboarding to 'monster truck' interactives, and from action heroes to mysteries, you can look for Nintendo, Sony Playstation and xbox systems and games to be leading the pack.
2. Hottest Christmas Toys 2004 #2 - 'Boy Toys'

Action 'toys' like scooters, dirt bikes and skateboards are for both boys and girls, of course, and they are all among the hottest Christmas toys for 2004. The Razor E battery-powered scooter is sure to be hot, as is the Fisher Price Power Wheels Go-Cart, and other electric or battery-powered 'toys' that translate into transportation fun!
3. Hottest Christmas Toys 2004 #3 - Remote Control

2004 will quite possibly be the 'Year of the Remote Control' toy. Hobbytron's remote control stunt cars are hot, hot, hot, and there are remote control boats, hovercrafts and various kinds of action figures on the list of the hottest Christmas toys for 2004. Be sure to check them all out!
4. Hottest Christmas Toys 2004 #4 - Oldies but Goodies

The classic children's toys that have been around for a few decades are still going to be around, and still going to be among the hottest Christmas toys for 2004. For example, Barbie and other Disney character toys, games and accessories are on top of the list.

Some other old favorites will be back, but some of them have a decidedly new 'flavor' - for example, the EasyBake oven just got even easier, and even Cabbage Patch kids have been updated and will be hotter than ever this year.
5. Hottest Christmas Toys 2004 #5 - Educational/Creative

Every year there are newer and smarter educational or creative games or toys that your children will learn new skills from -- the whole time they're playing and having fun!

A relative newcomer to the educational toys scene, Leapfrog Enterprises, Inc. has burst on the scene with junior computer games called 'LeapPad' that will definitely be one of the season's hottest Christmas toys.

Other creative and educational games include the classic Fisher Price toddler's line, and Discovery Toys.

You can start to shop anytime online or offline for the hottest Christmas toys 2004 -- before the shelves are empty!
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court questioned whether state medical marijuana laws might be abused by people who aren't really sick as it debated on Monday whether the federal government can prosecute patients who smoke pot on doctors' orders.
Watching the argument was Angel Raich, an Oakland, California, mother of two who said she tried dozens of prescription medicines to ease the pain of a brain tumor and other illnesses before she turned to marijuana. She and another ill woman, Diane Monson, filed a lawsuit to protect their access to the drug after federal agents confiscated marijuana plants from Monson's yard.

Their attorney, Randy Barnett of Boston, told the justices that his clients are law-abiding citizens who need marijuana to survive. Marijuana may have some negative side effects, he said, but seriously sick people are willing to take the chance because the drug helps them more than traditional medicines.
The stakes are high because 11 states have passed medical marijuana laws since 1996. A defeat for the two California women might undermine those laws and discourage other states from approving their own.

A loss for the government, on the other hand, could jeopardize federal oversight of illegal drugs and raise questions in other areas such as product safety and environmental activities. A Bush administration lawyer told the justices they would be encouraging people to use potentially harmful marijuana if they were to side with the women.

"Smoked marijuana really doesn't have any future in medicine," said Paul Clement, acting solicitor general.
The marijuana users won in the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that federal prosecution of medical marijuana users is unconstitutional if the pot is not sold, transported across state lines or used for nonmedicinal purposes.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the federal government has a stake in interstate commerce, but with the California medical marijuana patients: "Nobody's buying anything. Nobody's selling anything."

Her colleague, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, observed that homegrown medical marijuana never makes it to the interstate market.
"I think he would find that cannabis would help him a lot," said Raich, who uses marijuana every few hours for scoliosis, a brain tumor, chronic nausea and other illnesses.

California's law allows people to grow, smoke or obtain marijuana for medical needs with a doctor's recommendation. Besides California, other states with such laws are: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

Medical marijuana was an issue in the November elections. Montana voters easily approved a law that shields patients, their doctors and caregivers from arrest and prosecution for medical marijuana. Oregon rejected a measure that would have expanded its medical marijuana program dramatically.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Friday nominated former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik to take over as secretary of homeland security.

Bush called Kerik a "dedicated, innovative reformer who insists on getting results."

He cited Kerik's work in New York where Bush said Kerik "had great success in reducing crime in New York City."

Kerik, 49, led the New York City Police Department through the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and their aftermath.

"His broad practical hands-on experience makes Bernie superbly qualified to lead the Department of Homeland Security," Bush said.
"I am deeply humbled and honored for the opportunity to serve you and this great country," Kerik said in accepting the nomination. "Should I receive the consent of the Senate, I will devote every power I posess toward fulfilling the vital mission you have set before me and the Department of Homeland Security."

An administration official said that on at least two occasions Giuliani made a personal pitch to the White House that Kerik be named to succeed Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, 59, who announced his resignation Tuesday.
Protesters in Kiev's main square watched a crucial Supreme Court debate on outdoor TV screens Thursday as Ukraine awaited the judges' ruling on the country's election crisis.

Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko told supporters he expects the court's decision on allegations of fraud and voter intimidation will lead to a restaging of the disputed presidential poll.

European Union mediator Javier Solana also said he believes the court will not uphold the official results of the November 21 runoff, in which Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych was declared the winner.
The European Parliament on Thursday passed a strongly worded resolution calling for a rerun of the vote and rejecting Russian criticisms that Western leaders were encouraging violence by supporting the fraud allegations. (Full story)

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin -- meeting with outgoing Ukraine President Leonid Kuchma -- spoke against idea of repeating the runoff.

"A repeat of the runoff vote may fail to work," Putin said at Moscow's airport, where the two leaders met. "The revote could be conducted a third, a fourth, 25th time, until one side gets the results it needs."

In Washington, U.S. President George W. Bush said that if there is a new election, it should "be free from any foreign influence" and "open and fair."
"The position of our government is that the will of the people must be known and heard," Bush said. "And therefore we will continue to monitor and be involved in a process that encourages there to be a peaceful resolution of this issue."

Bush did not mention any country by name, but his comments were seen as apparently directed at Russia -- which backs Ukraine's government and supported Yanukovych in the election.
Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, who has helped Solana mediate the Ukraine deadlock, said a repeat of the runoff was the best solution.

"My opinion (on the solution to the crisis) is simple: elections have not yet been completed, we need to repeat the second round between the same candidates and give Ukrainians a chance to make a free choice," Reuters quoted him as saying in a brief interview on private all-news channel TVN24.

In Kiev, Ukraine's Supreme Court began hearing final arguments late Thursday after the last evidence was presented in the case.

Ruslan Knyazevich -- a member of the Central Election Commission who refused to sign the official results -- told the court that after the polls closed, "one million more votes were thrown in," AP reported.
LONDON, England (Reuters) -- A protester has attacked a controversial waxwork Nativity scene featuring England soccer captain David Beckham as Joseph and his pop star wife "Posh Spice" Victoria as the Virgin Mary.

"He pushed Posh and Becks over. It caused some damage but we don't know how much. The baby Jesus is fine," said a spokeswoman for Madame Tussaud's waxwork museum in London on Monday.

Anglicans, Catholics and Presbyterians have united in calling the exhibit a new low in the cult of celebrity worship.

But Madame Tussaud's said it was popular with the public, who were outraged at Sunday's vandalism
KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine lawmakers have reopened their investigation in opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko's disfiguring illness after doctors in Austria said he was poisoned.

Monday's decision by a parliamentary commission followed a similar move during the weekend by the country's prosecutor general.

"The results of the most recent expertise in Vienna are giving us grounds to renew our work," The Associated Press quoted lawmaker Volodymyr Sivkovych as saying.

"However, we are not convinced that deliberate poisoning can be proved."
Sivkovych, who supported Yushchenko's presidential opponent, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, will lead the commission.

Sivkovych led an earlier commission that investigated the case in October. That panel decided Yushchenko had suffered a combination of a viral infection and several other diseases, AP reported.

Earlier Monday, Yushchenko said he was convinced Ukrainian authorities were behind the attempt to poison him with dioxin, but he declined to name anyone specific.
"If (the) General Prosecution of Ukraine will act according to the law, as I hope, Ukraine and the whole world will know who was in charge of it."

Yushchenko, who returned to Kiev after doctors in Austria confirmed the poisoning during the weekend, called Sunday for a "serious investigation" into the case after the December 26 election.

"Investigation will take some time," he said at Kiev airport. Yushchenko praised Prosecutor General Svyatoslav Piskun for reopening the criminal investigation into his illness, AP said.

He said he hoped the investigation would be conducted after the rerun of the discredited presidential runoff because he didn't want the inquiry to influence the vote "either positively or negatively."

Prosecutors had closed their investigation before the November 21 runoff, saying they could not determine whether he was poisoned.
Yanukovych was declared the official winner of that vote, but Ukraine's Supreme Court threw out the results because of voting irregularities and ordered a repeat of the runoff.

Sivkovych said he had met with Piskun, and the lawmaker urged Yushchenko to hand over the Austrian doctors' test results to his panel and prosecutors immediately.

The lawmaker refused to comment on "speculation" over who was behind the poisoning, saying that "all those scenarios are more public relations than truth," AP reported.
Rock solid' diagnosis

Meanwhile, the doctor who oversaw Yushchenko's treatment in Vienna said Sunday that the diagnosis of dioxin poisoning is "rock solid," but added that more information must be obtained before medical authorities can determine his prognosis.

Dr. Michael Zimpfer told CNN he based his conclusion on a physical examination of the patient and "various blood tests" carried out at Vienna's Rudolfinerhaus clinic and elsewhere.

Zimpfer told reporters the concentration of dioxin in Yushchenko's body was "1,000 times above the normal levels" and that he suspected "third-party involvement."
"We have sent samples to a lab within Europe and also to labs across the Atlantic Ocean that claim to have vast experience, and they came up with the results," Zimpfer told CNN.

Yushchenko has "a tremendous amount of dioxin in the blood," Zimpfer said, so much that "it's beyond the scale." (Full story)

In September, the 50-year-old opposition leader fell ill a day after attending a reception and dinner with Ukrainian security services leaders. It is believed that Yushchenko, who drank various liquids at the event, is the only one who became sick.

Yushchenko went to the Austrian hospital for treatment five days later. He suffered from a series of symptoms, including back pain, acute pancreatitis and nerve paralysis on the left side of his face.

Aides said if he had remained in Ukraine he could have died.

He resumed campaigning later in the month but with a pockmarked and badly disfigured face.

"I have heard a lot of stories and legends on how this poison has been delivered, where it has been produced, which secret services were used for delivering it in Ukraine," Yushchenko said early Monday.

"I am not eager to comment (on) all this stuff, because it's a very delicate point. I do not want to put any shade on somebody, before it was established by the court."
( -- If you were disappointed with the meager showing put on by this year's Leonid meteor shower, don't fret. What could be the best meteor display of the year is scheduled to reach its peak on Monday night, December 13.

Skywatchers with dark skies away from city lights could see one or two meteors every minute during the Geminid meteor shower. The greatest activity is expected to be visible from North America, Europe and Africa.

The Geminids get their name from the constellation of Gemini, the Twins. On the night of this shower's maximum, the meteors will appear to emanate from a spot in the sky near the bright star Castor in Gemini.
Typically strong

The Geminid meteors are usually the most satisfying of all the annual showers, even surpassing the famous Perseids of August. Studies of past displays show that this shower has a reputation for being rich both in slow, bright, graceful meteors and fireballs as well as faint meteors, with relatively fewer objects of medium brightness.

Geminids typically encounter Earth at 22 miles per second (35 kilometers per second), roughly half the speed of a Leonid meteor. Many Geminids are yellowish in hue. Some even appear to form jagged or divided paths.

The Earth moves quickly through this meteor stream. Rates increase steadily for two or three days before maximum. So over the weekend, viewers between midnight and dawn might see a shooting star every few minutes. The number of meteors drops off sharply after the peak. Renegade forerunners and late stragglers might be seen for a week or more before and after maximum.
Ideal conditions

The Geminids perform excellently in any year, but British meteor astronomer Alastair McBeath has expects a "superb year" in 2004. Last year's display was seriously compromised by bright moonlight, when a bright gibbous moon came up over the horizon during the late evening hours and washed-out many of the fainter Geminid streaks.

But this year, the moon will be at new phase December 11. On the peak night, the moon will be a skinny crescent, low in the west-southwest at dusk and setting before 6 p.m. That means the sky will be dark and moonless for the balance of the night, making for perfect viewing conditions.

According to McBeath, the Geminids are predicted to reach peak activity on Monday at 22:20 GMT, which is 5:20 p.m. EST. Locations from Europe and North Africa east to central Russian and Chinese longitudes are in the best position to catch the very crest of the shower, when the rates conceivably could exceed 120 per hour, or two every minute.
COSTA MESA, California (AP) -- The thieves struck at night and knew just what they were after.

In minutes, they ripped two plants from the lavish landscaping at a home in this Los Angeles suburb, then fled when the homeowner woke up and turned on a porch light.

Total haul: $3,500.

The thieves were after cycads, palmlike plants so prized that a rare specimen can fetch $20,000 or more on the international black market. Some species have been around since the time of the dinosaurs but are now close to extinction.

The plants have been targeted in a wave of thefts in California and Florida, provoking anger and a little paranoia among collectors and staff at botanical gardens.
"No one talks about what they have anymore because they are just afraid," said Tom Broome, a nursery owner in Polk City, Florida, and president of the Cycad Society. The organization, with 500 members in 20 countries, promotes efforts to save the plants.

Some nurseries and gardens have added security, but homes are vulnerable. The thieves who struck in the Orange County city of Costa Mesa only had to enter the front yard to get the pair of cycads from a collection of some 50 species on the property.

One, valued at $2,000, was an obvious target: a 4-foot-tall cycad (pronounced 'sigh-cad') from southern Mexico with a knobby, barrel-shaped trunk that resembled a giant pineapple with emerald frond-like leaves.

The owner doesn't want his name disclosed because he fears thieves will return, especially for an African specimen that he hopes will finance a year of college for one of his kids.
"If someone found out I had it here they'd do anything to get it," he said.

Nearly everyone involved with cycads has a story of theft. One nursery owner in the San Diego area, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said he's been hit twice in the past 18 months and has had to add $50,000 worth of security.

In September, thieves broke into the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, Florida., taking advantage of the evacuation for Hurricane Frances, and stole more than 30 cycads. "In the black market, some species of cycads are like a fine piece of art -- like a Picasso," garden spokeswoman Nannette Zapata said at the time.

It's gotten bad enough that some have given up on the plants, which despite their palmlike appearance are more closely related to pine trees.

"You're just growing them up for someone else to steal and make a profit," laments Arthur Gibson, director of a botanical garden at the University of California, Los Angeles, which stopped acquiring cycads after someone pilfered part of its collection. "It's really depressing."

There are about 300 species of cycad, and most are threatened with extinction. They are generally tropical or subtropical -- with some of the most coveted found in southern Africa, Australia and South America.

Imports are restricted under an international treaty. Some species are essentially priceless and, if stolen, couldn't be displayed.

"It would be like having a stolen Picasso. Everybody would know that plant," said Julian Duval, executive director of Quail Botanical Gardens in Encinitas, which locked its most precious cycads in a greenhouse after a theft nearly two years ago.

Mike Maunder, director of Florida's Fairchild garden, suspects that thieves may be stealing to fill orders for an international black market most active in supplying collectors in the United States, Mexico, the Bahamas and South Africa.
TOKYO, Japan (Reuters) -- Sony Corp. said on Monday retailers had almost completely sold out of the Play Station Portable on its first day in Japanese stores, marking a strong start for the company's first handheld game machine.

Sony shipped about 200,000 of the sleek black devices to retailers ahead of the early Sunday morning launch in Japan. The PSP, which can play movies, music and games, will go on sale in Europe and North America early next year.

"We have heard that the PSP has nearly sold out nationwide," said Koichiro Katsurayama, spokesman at Sony Computer Entertainment, the group's game division.

"But we have not changed our target of shipping 500,000 in Japan by the end of 2004."

Katsurayama said Sony was considering boosting production of the PSP, but acknowledged that this would be a difficult task because it had already established schedules with components suppliers that could not be easily changed.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sen. John McCain, the straight-talking Republican who often challenges the GOP establishment, has taken on a headline-grabbing issue -- steroids in baseball -- and generated talk of a presidential bid in 2008.

Amid revelations about some of baseball's biggest names, McCain has threatened to push legislation early next year if Major League Baseball and the players do not clean up their act. McCain long has advocated harsher penalties for athletes caught using performance-enhancing drugs.

The three-term senator from Arizona has earned a reputation as a go-to lawmaker, tackling campaign finance, the war on Iraq, federal spending and climate change.

It's little wonder that his foray into the baseball scandal has revived Republican speculation about McCain and the 2008 presidential race.
Even though President Bush has yet to take the oath of office for a second term, other names that have surfaced as possible GOP candidates in 2008 include Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee; Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, George Allen of Virginia and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania; former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and Govs. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and George Pataki of New York.

"The big question is: Can McCain get any hotter?" said Scott Reed, a Republican consultant.

The talk is coming from outside the Washington Beltway, too.

"He's pretty well set to go in four years," said Jerry Roe, a former head of the Michigan Republican Party. "Politicians that go anyplace are like rock stars. McCain's a rock star."

A senator since 1986, McCain sought the GOP nomination in 2000 but lost to Bush in a bitter campaign. Over the next four years, McCain, a former Vietnam prisoner of war and deficit hawk who rarely held his tongue, became a frequent critic of the Bush administration and gained a reputation for bipartisanship.
SEATTLE, Washington (AP) -- Rod Watson had to cancel 1,000 flu-shot clinics in four states when the national vaccine shortage cut off his supply two months ago.

Now Watson has flu shots aplenty -- and he can't give them away.

"My biggest fear is I'm gong to end up with a lot of serum, and there's a national shortage," said Watson, president of Prevention MD, a medical screening and immunization company. He offers $20 flu shots Monday through Friday at his Seattle-area office.

Public health officials in California, Colorado and other states have voiced similar fears. Some are relaxing the rules to offer shots to more people.

In October and November people stood in line for hours to get one of the precious few flu shots. But now that more vaccine is available -- with a few million more doses expected from British and German suppliers -- demand is dwindling.

"It's one of those things like Beanie Babies or something," said Doug McBride, spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services. "If you can't get something, you've got more people wanting them."
Supply exceeds demand in some areas, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges. In other areas, people are still desperate for the vaccine. The best way to find a flu shot is to call your local health department, the CDC advises.

The CDC says 98 million people need the vaccine this winter. About 65 million doses will be available in the United States, including a nasal vaccine that's safe only for healthy people.

Public health officials say they hope demand is dwindling because they've reached the people who need flu vaccine the most: babies, the aged and the infirm. But they acknowledge that other factors -- from frustration and apathy to simple human nature -- might be at work too.

When something is scarce, people naturally want it more. Being told they can't get a desired immunization is an unfamiliar and unwelcome sensation for most Americans.

"Anytime a commodity is scarce, and it is a desired item, demand will increase," Dr. Louis Manza, psychology professor at Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania, said in an e-mail.

Some people probably gave up after trying unsuccessfully to get a flu shot, said Mary Selecky, director of the Washington State Health Department and member of a national advisory group on flu vaccine distribution. Recent reports on this flu season's mild start may have convinced others that getting a flu shot wasn't worth the trouble -- an impression Selecky is trying to erase.
"It's a mild flu season up to now, but next week could be another story," Selecky said. "As a society we're driven by what's in front of us ... We're having to work a little bit harder so people know that getting a flu vaccine in December and January is still very effective."

David Marks was surprised at how easy it was to get vaccinated at a Seattle grocery store last week. The line in the express checkout lane was longer than the line to get flu shots.

"I just assumed it was going to be hard," said Marks, 44, whose severe asthma puts him in the high-risk group. "I think people have given up."

High-risk groups, as defined by the CDC, are people age 65 and older, adults and children with chronic diseases, babies 6 months to 23 months, pregnant women, nursing home residents, and people who live with children under 6 months of age.

Some state officials are expanding eligibility to younger people, those just over 50. The CDC is encouraging state officials to set their own guidelines based on local needs.

"They know what's best for their community," CDC spokesman Llelwyn Grant said. The federal agency is also working with state and local officials to redirect vaccine to areas where it's most needed for high-risk patients.

Health officials are worried about elderly and infirm people who don't live in nursing homes and who lack the resources to track down a flu shot.

"There are still some real desperate people out there," said Watson, of the Seattle medical company. "We just don't know how to find them."

It's still too soon to tell whether more people will get sick and die this year because of the vaccine shortage. Most years, the peak flu month is actually February, according to the CDC. Public health officials say the silver lining may be that the shortage focused more attention on simple, common-sense ways to stop the spread of the virus -- washing your hands, staying home from school or work when you're sick, and avoiding touching your nose, eyes and mouth.

"At the turn of the 20th century, public health was all about teaching people not to spread disease," Selecky said. "Now at the turn of the 21st century, here we are again."
Dec. 20 issue - The week after Thanksgiving, dozens of Democratic Party loyalists gathered at AFL-CIO headquarters for a closed-door confab on the election. John Kerry dropped by to thank members of the liberal 527 coalition America Votes. When Ellen Malcolm, president of the pro-choice political network EMILY's List, asked about the future direction of the party, Kerry tackled one of the Democrats' core tenets: abortion rights. He told the group they needed new ways to make people understand they didn't like abortion. Democrats also needed to welcome more pro-life candidates into the party, he said. "There was a gasp in the room," says Nancy Keenan, the new president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

It might have sounded shocking, but John Kerry isn't alone in taking a new look at how the party is handling the explosive topic of abortion. As Democratic strategists and lawmakers quietly discuss how to straddle the nation's Red-Blue divide, abortion has become a prime target. "The issue and the message need to be completely rethought," says one strategist. Along with gay marriage, abortion is at the epicenter of the culture wars, another example used by Republicans to highlight the Democrats' supposed moral relativism. Polls show that most Americans support legal abortion, yet they also favor some restrictions, particularly after the first trimester. Strategists say that's where many Democrats are, too—the public just doesn't know it. With pro-life Sen. Harry Reid newly installed as Senate minority leader, Democrats are eager to show off their big tent.

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No one's suggesting that the party abandon its pro-choice roots. With George W. Bush expected to nominate as many as three presumably pro-life Supreme Court justices this term, advocates worry that the right to an abortion is more imperiled than it's been in decades. But as a step toward ultimately preserving that basic right, some Democrats now favor embracing common-sense restrictions on it. One possible initiative: a bill banning third-trimester abortions with broad exceptions for the life and health of the mother.
REDWOOD CITY, California (CNN) -- Jurors who decided that Scott Peterson deserves to die say his lack of emotion played a large role in their decision.

Peterson was convicted last month of killing his wife Laci and their unborn son, who was to be named Conner. On Monday, jurors recommended that he pay for the crime with his life.

Judge Alfred A. Delucchi will formally sentence Peterson on February 25. He has the option of reducing the sentence to life, but that is seen as unlikely.

If Delucchi upholds the jury's recommendation, Peterson will be sent to death row at San Quentin State Prison outside San Francisco.
The jury's death penalty recommendation surprised some observers, who pointed to the lack of physical evidence tying Peterson to the killings.

But jurors who spoke to the media after Monday's recommendation say the callousness of the crime -- and Peterson's lack of emotion or remorse -- helped to condemn him. (Full story)

"It just seemed to be the appropriate justice for the crime, given the nature and how personal it really was, against his wife and his child," said jury foreman Steve Cardosi.
Juror Richelle Nice, the mother of four children, pointed to Peterson's demeanor.

"No emotion, no anything. That spoke a thousand words," Nice said.

"Scott Peterson was Laci's husband, Conner's daddy -- the one person that should have protected them."
'Got what he deserved'

Laci Peterson's stepfather was happy with the jury's recommendation, saying Scott Peterson "got what he deserved" for killing his 27-year-old pregnant wife.

"It's still a nightmare. It should never have happened. It's hurt too many people for no reason," Ron Grantski said. "But justice was served."
The conclusion of the trial came at a "very hard" time of the year for Laci Peterson's family, Grantski said.

Christmas Eve will be the second anniversary of Laci Peterson's disappearance.

Cheers went up from a crowd of several hundred outside the courthouse Monday as the jury announced its decision after 11 1/2 hours of deliberations over three days.

Peterson, a 32-year-old former fertilizer salesman, clenched his jaw when the verdict was read and leaned over to speak with his attorney, Mark Geragos, but showed no other emotion, according to The Associated Press.

Laci Peterson's mother, Sharon Rocha, cried -- her lips quivering. Scott Peterson's mother, Jackie, showed no apparent emotion, according to the AP.
The jury had two options in deciding Peterson's fate: life in prison without parole or death.

On November 12, the same six-man, six-woman jury convicted Peterson of first-degree murder with special circumstances in the death of Laci and of second-degree murder in the death of the couple's unborn son.

Members of Scott Peterson's family, many of whom had taken the stand to ask jurors for mercy, did not comment on the sentence.

Stanislaus County District Attorney Jim Brazelton, whose office prosecuted the case, said Monday's sentencing verdict was a "just conclusion."

"We appreciate the hard, long work that the jury did. It wasn't a piece of cake for them," he said. "This was about six months of long, hard days of listening to a lot of testimony, paying attention to all of that testimony and putting it in the proper places."
What happens now?
AN FRANCISCO, California ( -- NASA's Mars rovers have returned new evidence for past water, pictures of Earth-like clouds seen for the first time from the planet's surface, and a rock that doesn't look like anything scientists have ever seen.

Meanwhile, officials say both robots are in surprisingly good health and could continue their science investigations for months more, despite nagging health problems.

The Spirit rover, ambling through the Columbia Hills at the fringe of the Gusev crater, has uncovered a riot of rock forms and geochemical novelties, including a mineral called goethite, which had not been found on Mars before. Goethite is common on Earth and forms only in the presence of water, though the water can be liquid, frozen or vaporous, said Goestar Klingelhoefer of the Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany.

Rover scientists presented their latest findings here Monday at meeting of the American Geophysical Union.
A chunk of terrestrial goethite about the size of a can of tomato soup, passed around during a press conference, was black and shiny.

Other findings suggest the rocks of Columbia Hills have a history that included either a meteorite impact or volcanic activity, and that water was involved at some point.

Cornell astronomer Steven Squyres, principle investigator for the rover science instruments, said that just this weekend the team spotted a type of rock never seen before. Scientists haven't yet analyzed it and Squyres wouldn't speculate on what it was. But he noted that the exposed rocks of the Columbia Hills, thought to be billions of years old, reveal an extremely complex structure and range of mineral types.

"We're stunned by the diversity of rocks," Squyres said. "This stuff looks like it was put into a blender."
Opportunity, back on the Meridiani Planum, took pictures of wispy clouds that look strikingly like cirrus clouds on Earth.

"This is just a totally spectacular image," said NASA rover scientist Michael Wolff as he presented the first image. And upon unveiling the second: "I can't get enough of these."

Wolff said the clouds are almost surely made of water ice. They've been spotted by orbiting spacecraft before and are known to occur near the equator -- where the rovers are -- only when Mars is at aphelion, or at its farthest point from the sun on its elliptical orbit. During aphelion, about 40 percent less sunlight warms the planet, changing the climate,

The clouds are being blown by wind. Wolff estimates they're moving at up to 22 mph (10 meters per second).

Opportunity's solar-powered batteries are working at near full capacity. The system produced about 950 watt-hours upon landing at the beginning of this year. Dust and a low, wintertime sun dropped that figure significantly at times in recent weeks. But lately it's been generating 900 watt-hours when the solar panel is pointed northward, said rover project manager James Erickson.

Spirit is producing just 400 watt-hours, but Erickson expects that to improve as spring brings the sun higher into the sky. For now, Spirit can only investigate rocks where rover drivers can keep its solar panel tilted north.
Erickson said the rovers are likely to continue exploring until some mechanical failure takes them down, rather than any problem with solar power generation. Spirit is still dogged by a balky front wheel and Opportunity continues to struggle with a shoulder problem. Both have outlasted their 90-day warranties, however, and will have been on Mars for a year in January.

"It looks like they'll both be around for the anniversary next month," Erickson said.

Asked if they robots will still be at work in May, Squyres alluded to his hard-working team, which for much of the early part of the mission worked on Mars time, by joking that "the rovers have a better chance of being alive then than we do."
BANGKOK, Thailand -- The World Health Organization has issued a dramatic warning that bird flu will trigger an international pandemic that could kill up to seven million people.

The influenza pandemic could occur anywhere from next week to the coming years, WHO said.

"There is no doubt there will be another pandemic," Klaus Stohr of the WHO Global Influenza Program said on the sidelines of a regional bird flu meeting in Bangkok, Thailand.

"Even with the best case scenario, the most optimistic scenario, the pandemic will cause a public health emergency with estimates which will put the number of deaths in the range of two and seven million," he said.

"The number of people affected will go beyond billions because between 25 percent and 30 percent will fall ill."